Bill Charlap: Stardust (2002)
Although he had made a few records previously, by the time that pianist Bill Charlap cut All Through the Night in 1997, it was obvious that the connection established with trio mates Peter and Kenny Washington was a special one, capable of great finesse and intuitiveness. People in the upstairs offices at Blue Note also must have known a good thing when they heard it because it wasn’t long before Charlap was inking his first major label deal. Written in the Stars would be his initial Blue Note offering, and there was much to recommend, however Stardust strikes a sophisticated pose that ups the ante even further.
The American Popular Song has always been Charlap’s fodder (no surprise there considering that his father composed for the Broadway stage), however there’s a new concept at play with Stardust in that the entire program consists of Hoagy Carmichael originals. “The Nearness of You,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Skylark,” and the title track are the most widely known items, balanced very astutely by some equally beguiling, if lesser known, chestnuts.
”I Get Along Without You Very Well” is a masterpiece of invention and surely one of the greatest lines that Carmichael ever penned and guest Tony Bennett’s rendition is fine enough, even if the vocalist’s pipes are not quite what they used to be. Shirley Horn’s husky whisper envelops “Stardust” and again nothing much all that revelatory occurs. It’s with the instrumental numbers that things really begin to coalesce. Frank Wess gets that breathy swagger going and things start to swing as “Rockin’ Chair” reaches for that ‘adult tempo’ (as Kenny Washington calls it) that puts a smile on one’s face.
Jim Hall’s appearance on “Two Sleepy People” helps to paint additional hues on an already panchromatic view of another obscure gem. Really only “Jubilee” and “I Walk With Music” get above a slow ballad tempo, but it’s that opportunity to luxuriate in the wide open spaces that helps Charlap get his point across in a way that’s deeply satisfying. Classy and accessible, Stardust is piano trio jazz that’s right up there with as good as it gets.
Track Listing: Jubilee, I Get Along Without You Very Well, Rockin' Chair, I Walk With Music, Two Sleepy People, The Nearness of You, One Morning in May, Blue Orchids, Georgia On My Mind, Stardust, Skylark
Personnel: Bill Charlap (piano), Peter Washington (bass), Kenny Washington (drums)